Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: As Love Blooms

As Love Blooms
By Lorna Seilstad
The Gregory Sisters, #3
Revell, 2015


Young romance opens like a rose . . . but even a rose has its thorns.

Tessa Gregory is nothing if not tenacious. Denied a position as a horticulturist at prestigious Como Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, she is not above a little benevolent deception in order to get the park superintendent to change his mind and hire her. She plans to infiltrate the world of wealthy and influential people in hopes of drumming up financial support for a world-class conservatory. But before she can put those plans into action, she meets Reese King, a handsome gardener at Como Park--and a major distraction. Still, Reese might be the key to achieving her dream. But is his goal to help her . . . or to capture her heart?

Against the lush backdrop of manicured gardens and greenhouses full of the exotic, Lorna Seilstad weaves a sweet and sassy story that is sure to delight.

My thoughts

I am glad to have discovered the writing of Lorna Seilstad and have thoroughly enjoyed the Gregory sisters. As Love Blooms concludes the series with the youngest sister's story, Tessa - and can I just say how appealing the cover is! It beautifully captures the essence of Tessa - her mischievousness, charm, wit, inner beauty, and sense of style. Although the characters overlap throughout the series, each book can stand alone.

The series features three engaging sisters who have promised to be there for each other after the death of their parents, helping each other achieve their dreams. They also have strong wills and are desirous of entering professions not usually open to women in the year of 1913 - Hannah, a lawyer; Charlotte, a chef; and Tessa, landscape design. Even their Aunt Samantha, a favorite character of mine, is actively involved in the suffrage movement. As Love Blooms lacked that certain "something" that makes for an exciting read, but I still enjoyed it overall.

Como Park Conservatory
Lorna brings in a lot of historical detail and anyone familiar with the Saint Paul, Minnesota area will enjoy the mentioning of several local scenes, including the beautiful Como Park where Tessa and Reese work. I enjoyed the garden design theme and especially all the behind-the-scene workings in preparation for the beautiful Como Park Conservatory.

Lorna infuses her writing with a gentle humor and rich characterization. Tessa is so energetic and funny, determined to prove that she is finally serious about her career. She was a dreamer who had "already passed through the journalist, photographer, librarian, and Pinkerton agent phases" and was now series about being a horticulturist. And when it came to relationships, she found playacting easier than fitting in with those around her. With his serious, humble, and protective nature, Reese was easy to like from the beginning. They complimented each other - and together, they made an unbeatable team.

I especially appreciated how Lorna connected the gardening/nature theme with everyday faith - from the importance of being rooted in Christ, to the realization that faith the size of a mustard seed is all it takes for God to work in His incredible ways. Both Tessa and Reese also learned a lesson that many of us can relate to - that faith is misplaced when we try to please or put our trust in a human being rather than God.

As Love Blooms is an enjoyable conclusion to The Gregory Sisters series and I look forward to more from Lorna Seilstad. I especially enjoyed book #2, While Love Stirs (click on title to see my review).


A history buff, antique collector, and freelance graphic designer, Lorna Seilstad is the author of When Love Calls and the Lake Manawa Summers series. A former high school English and journalism teacher, she has won several online writing contests and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Lorna lives in Iowa with her husband.

Connect with Lorna online at lornaseilstad.com and Facebook.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 25, 2015

New from Becky Wade | ‘A Love Like Ours’ $100 Cash Card and Prize Pack Giveaway

Fall in love with Becky Wade's new book, A Love Like Ours, a story of healing, romance, and cowboys. A glimmer of the hope Jake thought he’d lost returns when Lyndie lands back in Texas, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

To celebrate the release of her new book, Becky is giving away a $100 cash card and a book-inspired prize pack!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $100 cash card
  • A copy of A Love Like Ours
  • A copy of the Secretariat DVD
  • A scarf
  • A dog-tag/cross keychain
  • A pair of earrings
  • A Scarf
  • A Texas-shaped cutting board
  • A Jake Porter mug

love like ours - prize pack

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 26th. Winner will be announced May 27th on Becky's site.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review: Who's the New Kid?

Who's the New Kid?
By Heidi Bond with Jenna Glatzer
Tyndale, 2015


Who's the New Kid? shows readers how Heidi helped her daughter lose weight without the aid of fad diets, medication, or surgery and how other parents can do the same with their kids.

At nine years old, Breanna Bond weighed a whopping 186 pounds. Just walking up the stairs to her room was a challenge. Her legs chafed to the point of bleeding from rubbing against each other, and her school days were filled with taunts of "Hey, Fatty!" Breanna's mom, Heidi, was devastated and wondered, How can I get my daughter healthy again?

In just over a year, Heidi's plan worked! Breanna dropped 40 percent of her body weight and was transformed from a morbidly obese child who spent her days in front of the TV eating chips and chocolate to a vibrant, healthy, energetic little girl.

Filled with helpful diagnostic tools, easy-to-make recipes, eye-opening nutritional information, fun exercise ideas, and practical tips and advice, Who's the New Kid? will not only show parents how to help their kids lose weight naturally but also introduce them to simple, yet effective lifestyle changes that will benefit the entire family.

My thoughts

Who's the New Kid? by Heidi Bond just might be one of the most important books you'll ever choose to read. Important, relevant, encouraging, honest, factual, full of hope, and even life changing are just a few ways I would describe this book. With complete honesty, Heidi takes readers on her personal journey, never minimizing her own part in allowing Breanna to reach a weight of 186 pounds by the age of nine. Heidi's account is extremely well written, easy to follow, and a section with recipes, menu plans, exercise schedules is included at the end.

The further I got in Heidi's story, the more frustrated I became at the world we live in. Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the US, contributing to many more serious health problems than most of us realize - yet everywhere we turn, sugar-filled & fat-laden foods are calling out to us. And even when Heidi was making great progress with Breanna's weight loss, she encountered opposition when turning down candy . . . "The same people who had judged me for letting her get fat were now judging me for sticking to a plan to help her lose weight. It felt like I couldn't win."

One important message I'll take to heart from this book is the importance of taking responsibility when it comes to daily menus and exercise, and being consistent. I also appreciated how Heidi & Breanna are using their experience to help others. Heidi writes, "No one should go through something like this feeling as helpless and alone as we did in the beginning." Breanna is mentoring kids who want help losing weight, and Heidi even dreams of opening a weight-loss center for kids, teens, and parents.

Who's the New Kid? is surely a book to which almost everyone can relate and benefit from. It is eye opening and full of encouragement that hard-won victories can be achieved. Highly recommended.

Heidi Bond has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, and The Biggest Loser. A sought after speaker, she has helped thousands of parents who are struggling with overweight, underactive children. Heidi lives in Clovis, California with her husband, Dan, and their children, Breanna and Nathan.

Find Heidi and Breanna online at breannabond.com, Facebook, and Twitter

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse Landing Page:

The JOY of Art - Honoring Those Who Gave Their All

In honor of those we remember this Memorial Day weekend . . .

"May Freedom Ring Forever" - Kevin Daniel

"Reviewing the Troops" - Jack E. Dawson

“I don't have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.” 
President Ronald Reagan

"Valley Forge" - Mort Künstler

"Helicopter Rescue of Wounded" / "Indiana Rangers: The Army
Guard in Vietnam" - Mort Künstler

"Divine Guidance" - Mort Künstler

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something
bigger than oneself." - Joseph Campbell

"Homecoming" - Dan Hatala

"Col. Robert Shaw and the 54th Massachusettes" - Mort Künstler

"A Hot Night in Basra" - David Pentland

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”
– General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.

"Duty, Honor and Tears" / "God Be with You" - Mort Künstler

"Hometown Heroes" - Dona Gelsinger

"His First Goodbye" / "His First Homecoming" / "His Last Goodbye"
- Terry Redlin

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
— General George S. Patton

"D-Day" - Mort Künstler

"Back Home" - Tom Wood

And I'm proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.
- Lee Greenwood

Friday, May 22, 2015

Robin Lee Hatcher’s Kickin’ Karaoke and Country-Music Matching Contests

What a fun and creative challenge! While many of you could easily have a ball with this, I imagine that for many others, karaoke would be slightly out of your comfort zone. But no matter! Just let loose and let your imagination soar. And just to whet your appetite for this fun challenge, here's Robin's karaoke . . .

So . . . are you up for it?! I haven't had the opportunity to read Whenever You Come Around yet, but the previous two Kings Meadow stories were wonderful.


Real-life romance meets fictional romance in Robin Lee Hatcher's new book, Whenever You Come Around. Being back in Kings Meadow dredges up a painful secret, and old fears threaten to overwhelm Charity. But after Charity's dog causes an accident that leaves Charity’s former high school classmate Buck injured, Charity has little choice but to render aid while he recuperates. Soon Buck becomes the inspiration for Charity’s hero, both on the page and off. Can he also help her face and overcome her fears so they might find their own happily ever after?

Robin is hosting TWO contests to celebrate the release of Whenever You Come Around

whenever you come around-400

Robin is challenging you to a karaoke contest and giving away a $100 iTunes or Amazon gift card to one lucky reader and karaoke-r who uploads a karaoke video of himself or herself to YouTube (song choice is completely up to you). The person whose video has the most likes by May 26th will win the gift card! Plus everyone who participates by uploading a video and filling out the form below will receive a copy of the book. For full details about the $100 gift card giveaway, karaoke contest, and the chance to get a free copy of the book, click here—voting begins May 12.

when you come around-enterbanner

Robin is also challenging you to a matching contest. How well do you know your country music?

One winner will receive:

Another winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 26th. Winner will be announced May 27th on Robin's blog.

when you come around-enterbanner2

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review + GIVEAWAY: When Grace Sings

When Grace Sings
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, #2
WaterBrook Press, 2015


When trouble roars into quiet Arborville, Alexa and Anna-Grace find themselves the target for discord and exposed secrets. Can they continue to seek the God of all grace amidst the fog of confusion?

Alexa Zimmerman wonders if the Old Order Mennonite community in Arborville, Kansas will ever fully accept her. Her family roots here aren't what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful that her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over. The bed-and-breakfast she's operating needs to succeed so Alexa agrees to allow Briley Forrester, the hotshot reporter from Chicago, to stay as a long-term boarder not knowing his real motives for being amongst the Plain folk.

But when Alexa agrees to host her cousin Anna-Grace Braun, the presence of extended family brings out Alexa's insecurities and sets Briley on the trail to uncovering a web of hidden truths.

Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace have to face that their secrets are interconnected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. They must trust in a loving, heavenly Father and His plan for their futures.

My thoughts

When Grace Sings is simply a beautiful, moving and poignant story. I'm the perfect audience for character-driven stories, which is something Kim Vogel Sawyer does extremely well. But even more than the rich characterization, she builds emotion into fascinating storylines and never fails to clearly present the gospel message in a way that flows naturally with the story.

Set in an Old Order Mennonite community in Arborville, Kansas, When Grace Sings is book #2 in The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy. I regret that I haven't had time to read the previous book, When Mercy Rains, but Kim did such a good job at covering the past that I had no problem reading this book as a standalone. As with any series, however, I recommend reading the stories in order. I also need to mention that, although the ending is satisfying, not everything is wrapped up and there's much more to anticipate.

While this narrative flows easily from four different character perspectives, it's really a complex story because of all the relational and life issues brought in - teen pregnancy, adoption, family secrets, guilt, acceptance, following God's will. I loved and could easily relate to all the characters, but it's usually the most flawed character who draws me the most - and that would be the cocky and flirtatious Briley Forrester, a Chicago tabloid reporter who seeks to show that all is not peace and harmony within the Amish/Mennonite community, making a name for himself in the process. And then there's Steven, the "good" son who struggles with following the path his father has chosen for him. The two girls, Alexa and Anna-Grace, simply pull at the heartstrings.

Something I especially enjoyed is the spiritual message that Kim so flawlessly weaves into the narrative. The title, When Grace Sings, is beautiful in itself, but the meaning behind it is even more so - the idea of grace, so freely given, combining with Zephaniah 3:17's picture of God rejoicing over us with singing.

This story concludes with several characters still dealing with the effects of long-held secrets. We all know that it's only when they are brought into the light that secrets lose their power, so there is much to anticipate in the next story. I'll end with the thoughts Kim shared in a Litfuse interview when asked what she hoped readers would take away from this story, for she captures the essence of When Grace Sings so beautifully: 

"God gives second chances. We as humans make our mistakes, we flounder and err and build walls that seem insurmountable. But when we confess our wrongdoings and ask God to redeem us, He brings restoration. It’s NEVER too late for a second chance."

I rate books according to how they affect me, so . . . 5 stars for When Grace Sings. Highly recommended.


Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of twenty-nine novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and nine grandchildren.

Connect with Kim online at kimvogelsawyer.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Litfuse Landing Page:

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



To enter the drawing for When Grace Sings. . . 

1) If you're on Facebook, please go here and share about this giveaway 
2) Answer the following question:

Have you ever been on either the giving or receiving end
of second chances?

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BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Thursday, May 28. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.

Eligibility: US residents